Philippines, Part 1: Have Baby, Will Travel

Lest you think I’m a wimp for complaining so much about my travel troubles in Western Europe, let me tell you about the time we spent four months roughing it through a third-world country. In fact, I may just make this a Friday series. For other episodes, see here:

Philippines, Part 1: Have Baby, Will Travel
Philippines, Part 2: Do You Know How to XOOM?
Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)

Philippines, Part 4: Strawberries and Cotton Candy (Baguio)

Philippines, Part 5: Hanging Coffins! (Sagada)

Philippines, Part 6: Voyage of the Icebox (Banauae & Batad)

Philippines, Part 7: Revenge of the Cockroaches (Manila)
Philippines, Part 8: Please Don’t Feed the Sharks (Anilao)
Philippines, Part 9: “Sexy Chic” at the Playboy Fashion Show (Field Study Research)
Philippines, Part 10: Luxury Travel, Filipino Style (Cebu)
Philippines, Part 11: Nuts to the Huts (Bohol)
Philippines, Part 12: If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island . . . (Panglao)
Philippines, Part 13: The Chocolate Hills (Bohol Again)
Philippines, Part 14: Trouble in Paradise (Malapascua)

Tony was working on his business degree and I was pregnant with our first child when we hatched our plan to spend the summer in the Philippines doing a study on small to mid-sized manufacturing companies. Although we’d both traveled and lived overseas before, it was our first time to leave the United States together (unless you count popping into Tijuana during our San Diego honeymoon). It was also our first time to be the “parents.” We’d always traveled with a university or church group (or actually with our parents).

We had hunted up some contacts, secured a few grants to pad our newlywed budget, and bought plane tickets, including one for our unborn baby. She obliged us by coming two weeks early, which was good, since as it was we had barely enough time to expedite her passport and send it off with ours to the Philippines consulate for a visa. When she was a few days old, I decided it was time to take that passport picture. So I set her up in a sitting position on the couch, propped up with some strategically-placed pillows.

If you’ve never tried this, I’ll just tell you that there’s a limit to how much a week-old baby can even be propped. I had to hold her up, and even then, she looked like she didn’t have a neck. But when I let go for a second to take a picture, she leaned to the side until she fell over on the cushion. I did capture the slow-motion topple in a series of photographs, but was unable to get a single one that even remotely resembled a proper passport photograph. This went on for quite some time, resulting in a complete set of silly pictures.

Finally, in despair, I hit upon the winning solution. I put a white blanket on the floor, laid her down on it, and stood over her to take the picture from straight above. Voila! Perfection. When I did this again a few years later with my two-month-old son, the people at the post office asked where we’d had the pictures done, because they were the most perfect passport pictures they’d ever seen. My inner travel geek blushed scarlet and glowed for weeks.

We had long ago decided that we wouldn’t be the kind of parents who think they have to tote around fifteen extra suitcases of gear just because they have a baby. In fact, we weren’t even willing to take a stroller. When our parents drove us to the airport, we had a baby in a carrier on the front and frame backpacks on the back. And that was our luggage plan for the next four months.

It was the first and last time I ever wore a white pantsuit on a fourteen-hour plane flight with a baby. Although I think it was actually on the way back that she spilled tomato juice all over me a half hour into the flight (yes, I spent the next thirteen and a half hours in my pajamas). From that day on, whenever I travel I always wear black and pack extra clothes for the children and myself.

All things considered, and for being such amateurs (as parents and travelers), the actual flight went very well. Two-month-old Axa slept through most of it. When we arrived in Manila, we were feeling pretty good, jet-lag aside. Until the bombshell hit: we had nowhere to stay and no money.

Stay tuned next Friday for Philippines, Part 2: Do You Know How to XOOM?